We had the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with C3 about his work and his intriguing inspirations. Each person works in mysterious ways, and C3 is definitely an artist who thrives off the unknown, the peculiar, and the weird. He listens to combat folk music, has a cat named Death, and enjoys confined spaces. After getting to know C3 a little better, his work, style, and over all demeanor made a lot more sense.
Read the interview to get to know this interesting and innovative artist.
What is the inspiration behind “In Search of New Land”, your new work showing at the Shooting Gallery from October 9th – November 6th?
I watch a lot of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne movies. I use movies that I am inspired by as a stepping-stone, almost like an equation or formula to build around. I’m inspired a lot by wizard of oz. The idea of a girl and three weird guys, helping this girl on their way to accomplish their own goals.
When was the first time you watched Wizard of Oz?
Six or seven. I was living on a farm in Oklahoma with my parents, and they were still married. We had a cow farm. My dad owned property, and then my grandparents lived right next to us and they owned property. If you went all the way down the street my uncle lived there and he owned property. So everyone had a farm and a lot of land, but it was all on one road. It was like Curtis road because everyone who lived on the road was a Curtis.
Even when I was younger I had a lot of imagination I wanted to see more so I was kind of stuck in this. I was an only child living on a farm so I would always be talking to animals and hanging out with animals, not other people, or other kids. Unless I was at school, but then I’d come home and I’d hang out with older people; I would never talk to them as much. Seeing wizard of oz was like the same thing, her wanting to leave this farm and go somewhere else.
What other movies influence you? Your work has a horror, gruesome tone to it.
I try to stay away from the gruesome. It’s starting to slip in without me being conscience of it. I have a piece where I’m missing a part of my face, and that’s from seeing face transplant photos, and because it was real was why I decided to use it. The mask I used I got at a Halloween store and then I decided to start using it based on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the whole leather face. The thing that was always brilliant about leather face, he wasn’t looking for people to kill. People were coming on to his property and messing with him, and he was like I’m going to fuck you up. Then you would see him freaking out in the window, and that was even scarier because he was afraid. He didn’t want people coming in there. That’s more unnerving to me. The whole idea of someone wearing a mask; you never know what’s going on behind it.
Does this have anything to do with how you view people? Do you ever feel people are coming after you? Does that tap into any personal conflicts?
Definitely, I’m very introverted. I enjoy talking to friends and meeting people, but there are a lot of times in my life when I just want to be left alone. So the whole idea of wearing a mask is that people can’t see you. It’s a weird kind of power thing. You can just ignore people, and they don’t know who you are because you’re wearing this mask. People do it all the time. When people beg you for money, or someone tries to talk to you, people ignore them and act oblivious with their headphones on and they don’t have to talk to anyone.
How was it growing up in Oklahoma? Being with all animals, only child, open lands…
What’s funny now is that I realize how everything has come full circle. I enjoyed it when I was young, but then there was a period of my life when my parents got divorced, my mom moved to Tulsa, which for me then was a big city for me. Time went on and I hated it, and plus I never fit in at school, stuff like that. Now I look back, and I do miss the farm idea. I would like to move back and live on a farm or ranch when I get older. I’d want to be on the desert more. Its weird, its stuff I kind of rebelled against and now I want to go back to. I think I kind of do that in my art as well.
Why did you decide to move to SF?
Opportunity. My mom and my uncle helped me out with school. I heard about the academy from a friend who’s an artist, and he was going to school there. We went on a trip to SF to see the school, we went to LA to see another school, and I chose SF because I liked the school, and I liked the city. As soon as I got here I knew it was right. It’s a big city; I’ve been to NYC and Chicago. SF is different; it just feels more chill.
How long have you been here for?
Around 10 years.
Can you describe the environment you work in? Does that influence your work at all?
I had a show at a bookstore and I had a guy come to my place for an interview. He came in and said, “I’ve walked in a prison cell. It’s not much bigger than this” I was like “really”. That was pretty disturbing. I wouldn’t say it’s a prison cell, I don’t know, its small and its confined. It is kind of weird, I’ve gotten used to it. Its funny people come to my place and vie told them how small it is but they away say how its cozy because I’m really nested in hardcore. I have all my stuff on the walls, decorations everywhere, so there’s constantly stuff to look at so you don’t feel crazy. It keeps me stuck in that world, surrounded by trinkets that inspire me. I just sit on my coach and I’m drawing tiny drawings, it feels like I’m at home. I don’t have a studio. I have a cat so I have something there. It’s nice to have an animal around
What’s the name of your cat?
Death. Grim Reaper was always my favorite mythological monster. I feel like cats should always have a badass name, and the ultimate is death. You can’t mess with that.
When did you start getting into creepy stuff? When you were younger?
Yeah, I still remember seeing Children of the Corn; I think I was at a friend’s house. All I remember is the séance and they had the girl they were crucifying and then Satan came rolling hills. As a kid, I didn’t know what was going on but I thought “this is awesome, this is like the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!” Same thing happened with Howard The Duck. I didn’t know what it was; I just saw parts of it. I went home and I didn’t know how to explain it to my parents but I knew I had to see it again. Years later someone was watching Children of the Corn and I was like “yeah that’s the movie!” At a young age, even my aunt said, “when you were young all you ever did was draw monsters”. The idea of the unknown excites me. Not that it’s dark, it’s exciting.
Take me through your process of starting a new piece.
Sometimes I take a photo or other times I use an old photo. My ideas for this show have all been based on specific friends that I have. If I have an idea, I’ll photograph the person. If I get an old photo, I’ll see what strikes me get an idea from that right away. Scan it, put it into Photoshop. Mess with the lighting and contrast, print out the size I want, and then age the paper. I’ve been putting paper into water, then putting instant coffee on it, and then aging it and drying it. Once its dry its basically about transferring the image from a photo copy, and rub it with graphite and then u transfer. Once that’s done you spend all the time shading everything. The transfer is never perfect so you have to be able to tweak around that.
What’s your favorite piece in the show?
Frontier. It’s a picture of me in the mask, and my friend who I guess would be Dorothy. Inspired by the moment after she meets the scarecrow and they’re on their journey together. It’s me standing behind her in a cornfield with a windmill. I used different paper, so I got really excited. I used hot press watercolor paper, like arches. It took the staining of the coffee so well because its watercolor paper. The texture has just the right amount of grain so I can get this nice value scale.
That sounds rad, can’t wait to see it. How do you want people to perceive your work and what are you trying to convey?
People automatically think it’s creepy and dark. When I watched horror films I was never excited because it’s dark. I was excited because it was mysterious and unknown, and often that is the most frightening. I want my stuff, in the end, to be mysterious. Each piece has a story to it, and if someone asked me I’ll tell, but I try to let people look at it, think about it, and make a conclusion for themselves. It doesn’t have to be what I think; it’s up to their interpretation. I would say a lot of them are hopeful. They’re these people who have gone through hardships in their life, and are still pushing through. Most of the characters are struggling to find something new. The whole idea of searching for new land, and they’re going to keep going until they find what they’re looking for.
That seems to be a theme most people can relate to. What’s next for you?
It’s just going to continue. I have a character base now. The next body of work will be a war. There will be a battle that ensues. It’ll be like a coming storm. It’s not a lot of fighting, but something looming over the horizon, and these people know its coming.